The foods that you put in your mouth affect every part of your body, including your heart. Therefore, eating a healthy, well balanced diet is essential to your heart health. One should eat a balance of fiber rich vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and heart healthy proteins like fish, poultry, and nuts. Studies have shown that there are specific foods that can improve your heart health. Let’s take a look at the top ten food you should add to your next grocery list.
1. Avocadoes – Avocadoes are rich in monounsaturated fat which has been shown to reduce dangerous cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to healthy fats, avocadoes are rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure and the risk of a stroke. One avocado can lower the risk of a stroke by 15 percent. Avocadoes also help lower the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions, including excess body fat in the abdominal area, high glucose levels, elevated blood pressure, and high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which increase the risk of heart disease.
2. Berries – Berries, including strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are filled with antioxidants that eradicate oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. Oxidative stress occurs when the body is exposed to toxins in the air, water, soil, and foods, when alcohol or tobacco products are used, certain medications are taken, and in diets filled with processed foods, sugars, and fats. Consuming these heart healthy berries reduce bad cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, decreases inflammation, and helps control clotting.
3. Dark chocolate – Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but it can help protect against cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that improve your heart health by reducing the amount of plaque found in the blood vessels. When choosing dark chocolate for your heart health, look for one that has at least 70 percent cocoa. Chocolate can be high in calories and sugar; therefore, you must ensure you do not overindulge and counteract the benefits that chocolate offers.
4. Fatty fish – Fatty fish, including mackerel, salmon, tuna, and sardines are filled with heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Eating fatty fish three times a week can lower diastolic blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, decrease cholesterol levels, and improve fasting glucose levels. Additionally, consuming fatty fish can help decrease the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, all of which increase the risk of heart disease. If you are unable to eat three servings of fish weekly, a fish oil supplement will provide you with the fish oils needed to promote heart health. Fish oil supplements improve arterial function, lower blood pressure, and reduce triglyceride levels.
5. Garlic – Garlic has been used for centuries to relieve a variety of ailments naturally. The allicin found in garlic reduces blood pressure, decreases cholesterol readings, and reduces platelet buildup in the blood vessels, which can reduce your risk of developing blood clots or having a stroke. Studies have shown that consuming garlic raw can reduce blood pressure as well as certain prescription blood pressure medications.
6. Green, leafy vegetables – Green, leafy veggies like collard greens, kale, and spinach are filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. These delicious veggies are a wonderful source of vitamin K. Vitamin K protects your blood vessels and helps prevent arterial stiffening. These vegetables have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by improving the lining of the blood vessels and promoting proper blood clotting. Finally, green, leafy vegetables help lower blood pressure to improve heart health.
7. Olive Oil – Olive oil is a healthy fat that decreases inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases. The monounsaturated fat in this delicious oil improves heart health and reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by almost 50 percent. Olive oil is filled with antioxidants and healthy fats that lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels.
8. Tea – Tea, especially green tea, offers numerous heart health benefits. Drinking tea increases your body’s fat burning potential and improves insulin sensitivity. The catechins and polyphenols reduce inflammation and prevent damage to your heart’s cells. When green tea is consumed, cholesterol levels and triglycerides begin to decreases. Finally, green tea can help lower both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.
9. Tomatoes – Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene neutralizes free radicals, decreases inflammation, and prevents oxidative stress. Lycopene has been associated with a much lower risk of stroke or cardiovascular disease. In fact, eating two raw tomatoes several times a week can raise your good cholesterol levels, which can help remove plaque and cholesterol from the arteries to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
10. Whole grains – Whole grains like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, whole wheat, barley, brown rice, and rye contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which means these foods help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure readings, and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Whole grains reduce the amount of cholesterol that the body absorbs through foods and help regulate your glucose level. Both of these can help minimize the risk of heart damage.
A healthy diet and a healthy heart go hand in hand. The foods that you put on your plate can either improve your cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels or they can harm them. The heart healthy foods listed above help lower systemic inflammation and improve your arterial function and heart health. A well-balanced diet filled with heart healthy foods can ensure your heart is in great shape and your risk of heart disease is minimized.